BISHOPS' COMMITTEE ON THE LITURGY
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BISHOPS' COMMITTEE ON THE LITURGY
MUSIC IN CATHOLIC WORSHIP
1972 statement /Bishops1 Committee on Liturgy
USCC, 1312 Mass. Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20005
I THE THEOLOGY OF CELEBRATION
II PASTORAL PLANNING
III THE PLACE OF MUSIC IN THE CELEBRATION
Music serves the expression of faith
Evaluation of music in celebration
The musical judgement
The liturgical judgement
The organist and other
The pastoral judgement
IV GENERAL CONSIDERATION ON LITURGICAL STRUCTURE
The introductory rites
The liturgy of the Word
The preparation of the gifts
The Eucharist ic Prayer
The Communion rite
V APPLICATION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF CELEBRATION
TO MUSIC IN EUCHARISTIC WORSHIP
"Holy, Holy, Holy Lord"
The memorial acclamation
The great Amen
Doxology to the Lord ' s Prayer
The processional songs
The entrance song
The communion song
Lord have mercy
Glory to God
Lord T s Prayer
"Lamb of God"
Profession of faith
The offertory song
The psalm or song after communion
The recessional song
Progress and New Directions
VI MUSIC IN SACRAMENTAL CELEBRATION
In November 1967, the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy published
a statement on music entitled "The Place of Music in Eucharistic
Celebrations." This statement was drawn up after study by the then Music
Advisory Board and submitted to the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy.
The Bishops' Committee approved the statement, adopted it as its own,
and recommended it for consideration by all. The following statement on
music in liturgical celebrations is a further development of that statement
and was drawn up after study by the committee on music of the National
Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions. Their work was reviewed
by the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy and their advisors. The finished
copy is presented to all by the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy as
backgound and guidelines for the proper role of music within the liturgy.
In the course of this century music and its role in the liturgy have
been the subject of many documents. On November 22, 1903, the motu
proprio Tra le Sollecitudini of Saint Pius X was promulgated; on December
20, 1928, the apostolic constitution of Pope Pius XI, Divini cu/tus, was
published; the encyclical of Pope Pius XII, Musicae sacrae discipline/ , was
promulgated on December 25, 1955. On September 3, 1958, the
Congregation of Rites issued an instruction on sacred music and the sacred
liturgy. The crescendo of documents, both major and minor, on the role
of music in the liturgy continued and reached the culminating point in
Vatican M's Constitution on the Liturgy in which an entire chapter was
dedicated to sacred music. The liturgical constitution explained the role of
music in divine services and formulated a number of principles and
guidelines on this subject. Next, on March 5, 1967, the Consilium— the
post-conciliar commission on the reform of the liturgy— in conjunction
with the Congregation of Rites issued an instruction on music in the
liturgy. The latter prompted the former statement of the Bishops'
Committee on the Liturgy, "The Place of Music in Eucharistic
A few years have elapsed, and the pastoral situation in the United
States can be regarded with greater calm and serenity. However, it is
urgent that fresh guidelines be given to foster interest with regard to music
in the liturgy.
After several years with the 1967 statement it should now be clear
that mere observance of a pattern or rule of sung liturgy will not create a
living and authentic celebration of worship in Christian congregations.
That is the reason why statements such as this must take the form of
recommendation and attempts at guidance. In turn, this demands
responsible study and choice by priest and leaders of singing: "a very wide
field of diverse liturgical practice is now open, within the limits set by the
present discipline and regulations... Not all priests appreciate how wide the
opportunities are for planning lively and intelligible celebration" (National
Conference of Catholic Bishops, April 1 967)— especially in the various
combinations of song and spoken prayer in the liturgy.
It is hoped that this statement of the Bishops' Committee on the
Liturgy will be of use to the bishops and their liturgical commissions and
to all who celebrate or plan liturgies.
MUSIC IN CATHOLIC WORSHIP
/. THE THEOLOGY OF CELEBRA TION
1. A man is a Christian because through the Christian community he has
met Jesus Christ, heard his word in invitation, and responded to him in
faith. Christians gather at Mass that they may hear and express their faith
again in this assembly and, by expressing it, renew and deepen it.
2. We do not come to meet Christ as if he were absent from the rest of
our lives. We come together to deepen our awareness of, and commitment
to, the action of his Spirit in the whole of our lives at every moment. We
come together to acknowledge the love of God poured out among us in
the work of the Spirit, to stand in awe and praise.
3. We are celebrating when we involve ourselves meaningfully in the
thoughts, words, songs, and gestures of the worshipping community— when
everything we do is wholehearted and authentic for us— when we mean the
words and want to do what is done.
4. People in love make signs of love, not only to express their love but
also to deepen it. Love never expressed dies. Christians' love for Christ and
for each other, Christians' faith in Christ and in each other, must be
expressed in the signs and symbols of celebration or it will die.
5. Celebrations need not fail, even on a particular Sunday when our
feelings do not match the invitation of Christ and his Church to worship.
Faith does not always permeate our feelings. But the sign and symbols of
worship can give bodily expression to faith as we celebrate. Our own faith
is stimulated. We become one with others whose faith is similarly
expressed. We rise above our own feelings to respond to God in prayer.
6. Faith grows when it is well expressed in celebration. Good celebrations
foster and nourish faith. Poor celebrations weaken and destroy faith.
7. To celebrate the liturgy means to do the action or perform the sign in
such a way that the full meaning and impact shine forth in clear and
compelling fashion. Since these signs are vehicles of communication and
instruments of faith, they must be simple and comprehensible. Since they
are directed to fellow human beings, they must be humanly attractive.
They must be meaningful and appealing to the body of worshippers or
they will fail to stir up faith and men will fail to worship the Father.
8. The signs of celebration should be short, clear and unencumbered by
useless repetition; they should be "within the people's power of
comprehension and normally should not require much explanation."1
If the signs need explanation to communicate faith, they will often be
watched instead of celebrated.
9. In true celebration each sign or sacramental action will be invested
with the personal and prayerful faith, care, attention, and enthusiasm of
those who carry it out.
//. PASTORA L PLANNING FOR CELEBRA TION
10. The responsibility for effective pastoral celebration in a parish
community falls upon all those who exercise major roles in the liturgy.
"The particular preparation for each liturgical celebration should be done
in a spirit of cooperation by all parties concerned, under the guidance of
the rector of the church, whether it be ritual, pastoral, or musical
matters."2 In practice this ordinarily means an organized "planning team"
or committee which meets regularly to achieve creative and coordinated
worship and a good use of the liturgical and musical options of a flexible
11. The power of a liturgical celebration to share faith will frequently
depend upon its unity— a unity drawn from the liturgical feast or season or
from the readings appointed in the lectionary and artistic unity flowing
from the skillful and sensitive selection of options, music, and related arts.
The sacred scriptures ought to be the source and inspiration of sound
planning for it is the very nature of celebration that men hear the saving
words and works of the Lord and then respond in meaningful signs and
symbols. Where the readings of the lectionary possess a thematic unity
the other elements ought to be so arranged as to constitute a setting for
and response to the message of the Word.
12. The planning team or committee is headed by the priest (celebrant
and homilist) for no congregation can experience the security of a unified
celebration if that unity is not grasped by the one who presides, as well as
by those who have special roles. It should include those with the
knowledge and artistic skills needed in celebration— men and women
trained in music, poetry, and art, and knowledge in current resources in
these areas— men and women sensitive to the present day thirst of so many
riches of scripture, theology, and prayer. It is always good to include some
members of the congregation who have not taken special roles in the
celebrations so that honest evaluations can be made.
13. The planning should go beyond the choosing of options, songs, and
ministers to the composition of such texts as the brief introduction,
general intercessions, and other appropriate comments as provided in the
General Instruction of the Roman Missal. The manner of inviting the
people to join in a particular song may be as important as the choice of the
14. In planning pastoral celebrations the congregation, the occasion, and
the celebrant must be taken into consideration.
15. "The pastoral effectiveness of a celebration depends in great measure
on choosing readings, prayers, and songs which correspond to the needs,
spiritual preparation, and attitudes of the participants."3 A type of
celebration suitable for a youth group may not fit in a retirement home; a
more formal style effective in a parish church may be inappropriate in a
home liturgy. The music used should be within the competence of most of
the worshippers. It should suit their age-level, cultural background, and
level of faith.
16. Variation in level of faith raises special problems. Liturgical
celebration presupposes a minimum of biblical knowledge and a deep
commitment of living faith. Lacking these conditions, the liturgy may be
forced to become a tool of evangelization. Greater liberty in the choice of
music and style of celebration may be required as the participants are led
toward that day when they can share a growing faith in the whole
community. Songs like the psalms may create rather than solve problems
where faith is weak. Music, chosen with care, can serve as a bridge to faith
as well as an expression of it.
17. The diversity of people present at a parish liturgy gives rise to a
further problem. Can the same parish liturgy be an authentic expression
for a grade school girl, her college-age brother, their married sister with her
young family, their parents and grandparents? Can it satisfy the
theologically and musically educated along with those lacking in training?
Can it please those who seek a more informal style of celebration? The
planning team must consider the general makeup of the total community.
Each Christian must keep in mind that to live and worship in community
often demands a personal sacrifice. Everyone must be willing to share likes
and dislikes with those whose ideas and experience may be quite unlike his
18. Often the problem of diversity can be mitigated by supplementing
the parish Sunday celebration with special celebrations for smaller
homogeneous groups. "The need of the faithful of a particular cultural
background or of a particular age level may often be met by a music that
can serve as a congenial, liturgical oriented expression of prayer."4 The
music and other options may then be more easily suited to the particular
group celebrating. Nevertheless, it would be out of harmony with the
Lord's wish for unity in his Church if believers were to worship only in
such homogeneous groupings.5 Celebration in such groups, "in which the
genuine sense of community is more readily experienced, can contribute
significantly to growth in awareness of the parish as community, especially
when all the faithful participate in the parish Mass on the Lord's day."6
19. The same congregation will want to celebrate in a variety of ways.
During the course of the year the different mysteries of redemption are
celebrated at Mass so that in some way they are made present.7 Each feast
and season has its own spirit and its own music. The penitential occasions
demand more restraint. The great feasts demand more solemnity.
Solemnity, however, depends less on the ornateness of song and
magnificence of ceremonial than on worthy and religious celebration.8
20. Generally a congregation or choir will want to sing more on the great
feasts like Christmas and Easter and less in the season through the year.
Important events in family and parish life will suggest fuller programs of
song. Sundays will be celebrated with variety but always as befits the day
of the Lord. All liturgies, from the very simple to the most ornate, must be
truly pastoral and prayerful.
21. No other single factor affects the liturgy as much as the attitude,
style, and bearing of the celebrant: his sincere faith and warmth as he
welcomes the worshipping community; his human naturalness combined
with dignity and seriousness as he breaks the Bread of Word and Eucharist.
22. The style and pattern of song ought to facilitate the effectiveness of a
good celebrant. His role is enhanced when he is capable of rendering some
of his parts in song and he should be encouraged to do so. What he cannot
sing well and effectively he ought to recite. If capable of singing, he ought,
for the sake of people, to rehearse carefully the sung parts that would
contribute to their celebration.9
///. THE PLA CE OF MUSIC IN THE CELEBRA TION
Music Serves the Expression of Faith
23. Among the many signs and symbols used by the Church to celebrate
its faith, music is of preeminent importance. As sacred song united to the
words it forms an integral part of solemn liturgy.10 Yet the function of
music is ministerial; it must serve and never dominate. Music should assist
the assembled believers to express and share the gift of faith that is within
them and to nourish and strengthen their interior commitment of faith. It
should heighten the texts so that they speak more fully and more
effectively. The quality of joy and enthusiasm which music adds to
community worship cannot be gained in any other way. It imparts a sense
of unity to the congregation and sets the appropriate tone for a particular
24. Music, in addition to expressing texts, can also unveil a dimension of
meaning and feeling, a communication of ideas and intuitions which words
alone cannot yield. This dimension is integral to the human personality
and to man's growth in faith. It cannot be ignored if the signs of worship
are to speak to the whole person. Ideally every communal celebration of
faith, including funerals and the sacraments of baptism, confirmation,
penance, anointing and matrimony, should include music and singing.
Where the Liturgy of the Hours is able to be celebrated in a community, it
too should include music.
Evaluation of Music in Celebration
25. To determine the value of a given musical element in a liturgical
celebration a threefold judgment must be made: musical, liturgical, and
The Musical Judgment
26. Is the music technically, aesthetically, and expressively good? This
judgment is basic and primary and should be made by competent
musicians. Only artistically sound music will be effective in the long run.
To admit the cheap, the trite, the musical cliche often found in popular
songs on the grounds of instant liturgy is to cheapen the liturgy, to expose
it to ridicule, and to invite failure.
27. Musicians must search for and create music of quality for worship,
especially the new musical settings for the new liturgical texts. They must
also do the research needed to find new uses for the best of the old music.
They must explore the repertory of good music used in other
communions. They must find practical means of preserving and using our
rich heritage of Latin chants and motets.1 1
In the meantime, however, the words of St. Augustine should not be
forgotten: "Do not allow yourselves to be offended by the imperfect while
you strive for the perfect."
28. We do a disservice to musical values, however, when we confuse the
judgment of music with the judgment of musical style. Style and value are
two distinct judgments. Good music of new styles is finding a happy home
in the celebrations of today. To chant and polyphony we have effectively
added the chorale hymn, restored responsorial singing to some extent, and
employed many styles of contemporary composition. Music in folk idiom
is finding acceptance in eucharistic celebrations. We must judge value
within each style.
"In modern times the Church has consistently recognized and freely
admitted the use of various styles of music as an aid to liturgical worship.
Since the promulgation of the Constitution on the Liturgy and more
especially since the introduction of vernacular languages into the liturgy,
there has arisen a more pressing need for musical compositions in idioms
that can be sung by the congregation and thus further communal
29. The musician has every right to insist that the music be good. But
although all liturgical music should be good music, not all good music is
suitable to the liturgy. The musical judgment is basic but not final. There
remains the liturgical and pastoral judgments.
The Liturgical Judgment
30. The nature of the liturgy itself will help to determine what kind of
music is called for, what parts are to be preferred for singing and who is to
31. The choice of sung parts, the balance between them and the style of
musical setting used should reflect the relative importance of the parts of
the Mass (or other service) and the nature of each part. Thus elaborate
settings of the entrance song, "Lord have Mercy" and "Glory to God"
may make the proclamation of the word seem unimportant; and overly
elaborate offertory song with a spoken "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord" may
make the eucharistic prayer seem less important.
32. Does the music express and interpret the text correctly and make it
more meaningful? Is the form of the text respected? In making these
judgments the principal classes of texts must be kept in mind:
proclamations, acclamations, psalms and hymns, and prayers. Each has a
specific function which must be served by the music chosen for a text.
In most instances there is an official liturgical text approved by the
episcopal conference. "Vernacular texts set to music composed in earlier
periods," however, "may be used in liturgical texts."13 As noted
elsewhere, criteria have been provided for the texts which may replace the
processional chants of Mass. In these cases and in the choice of all
supplementary music, the texts "must always be in conformity with
Catholic doctrine; indeed they should be drawn chiefly from holy
scripture and from liturgical sources."14
33. "In liturgical celebrations each person, minister or layman, who has
an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain
to his office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy."15
Special musical concern must be given to the roles of the congregation, the
cantor, the choir and the instrumentalists.
34. Music for the congregation must be within the performance ability of
the members of the congregation. The congregation must be comfortable
and secure with what they are doing in order to celebrate well.
35. While there is no place in the liturgy for display of virtuosity for its
own sake, artistry is valued, and an individual singer can effectively lead
the assembly, attractively proclaim the Word of God in the psalm sung
between the readings and take his part in other responsorial singing.
"Provision should be made for at least one or two properly trained singers,
especially where there is no possibility of setting up even a small choir."
The singer will present some simpler musical setting, with the people
taking part, and can lead and support the faithful as far as is needed. The
presence of such a singer is desirable even in churches which have a choir
for those celebrations in which the choir cannot take part, but which may
fittingly be performed with some solemnity and therefore with singing."16
Although a cantor "cannot enhance the service of worship in the same way
as a choir, a trained and competent cantor can perform an important
ministry by leading the congregation in common sacred song and in
36. A well-trained choir adds beauty and solemnity to the liturgy and
also assists and encourages the singing of the congregation. The Second
Vatican Council, in speaking of the choir, stated emphatically: "Choirs
must be diligently promoted" provided that "the whole body of the
faithful may be able to contribute that active participation which is rightly
"At times the choir, within the congregation of the faithful and as
part of it, will assume the role of leadership, while at other times it will
retain its own distinctive ministry. This means that the choir will lead the
people in sung prayer, by alternating or reinforcing the sacred song of the
congregation, or by enhancing it with the addition of a musical
elaboration. At other times in the course of liturgical celebration, the choir
alone will sing works whose musical demands enlist and challenge its
The Organist and Other Instrumentalists
37. Singing is not the only kind of music suitable for liturgical
celebration. Music performed on the organ and other instruments can
stimulate feelings of joy and contemplation at appropriate times.20 This
can be done effectively at the following points: an instrumental prelude, a
soft background to a spoken psalm, at the preparation of the gifts in place
of singing, during portions of the communion rite, and the recessional.
In the dioceses of the United States, "musical instruments other than
the organ may be used in liturgical services, provided they are played in a
manner that is suitable to public worship."21 This decision deliberately
refrains from singling out specific instruments. Their use depends on
circumstances, the nature of the congregation, etc.
38. The proper placing of the organ and choir according to the
arrangement and acoustics of the church will facilitate celebration.
Practically speaking, the choir must be near the director and the organ
(both console and sound). The choir ought to be able to perform without
too much distraction; the acoustics ought to give a lively presence of
sound in the choir area and allow both tone and word to reach the
congregation with clarity. Visually it is desirable that the choir appear to
be part of the worshipping community, yet a part which serves in a unique
way. Locating the organ console too far from the congregation causes a
time lag which tends to make the singing drag unless the organist is trained
to cope with it. A location near the front pews will facilitate
The Pastoral Judgment
39. The pastoral judgment governs the use and function of every element
of celebration. Ideally this judgment is made by the planning team or
committee. It is the judgment that must be made in this particular
situation, in these concrete circumstances. Does music in the celebration
enable these people to express their faith, in this place, in this age, in this
40. The instruction of the Congregation for Divine Worship, issued
September 5, 1971, encourage episcopal conferences to consider not only
liturgical music's suitability to the time and circumstances of the
celebration, "but also the needs of the faithful who will sing them. All
means must be used to promote singing by the people. New forms should
be used, which are adapted to the different mentalities and to modern
tastes." The document adds that the music and the instruments "should
correspond to the sacred character of the celebration and the place of
41. A musician may judge that a certain composition or style of
composition is good music but his musical judgment really says nothing
about whether and how this music is to be used in this celebration. The
signs of the celebration must be accepted and received as meaningful for a
genuinely human faith experience for these specific worshippers. This
pastoral judgment can be aided by sociological studies of the people who
make up the congregation: their age, culture, and education. These factors
influence the effectiveness of the liturgical signs, including music. No set
of rubrics or regulations of itself will ever achieve a truly pastoral
celebration of the sacramental rites. Such regualtions must always be
applied with a pastoral concern for the given worshipping community.
IV. GENERAL CON SIDE RA T/ON ON LITURGICAL STRUCTURE
42. Those who are responsible for planning the music for eucharistic
celebrations in accord with the three judgments above must have a clear
understanding of the structure of the liturgy. They must be aware of what
is the primary importance. They should know the nature of each of the
parts of the liturgy and the relationship of each part to the overall rhythm
of the liturgical action.
43. The Mass is made up of the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the
Eucharist. These two parts are so closely connected as to form one act of
worship. The table of the Lord is the table of God's Word and Christ's
Body, and from it the faithful are instructed and refreshed. In addition,
the Mass has introductory and concluding rites.22 The introductory and
concluding rites are secondary.
The Introductory Rites
44. The parts preceding the liturgy of the word, namely, the entrance,
greeting, penitential rite, Kyrie, Gloria, and opening prayer or collect, have
the character of introduction and preparation. The purpose of these rites is
to help the assembled people become a worshipping community and to
prepare them for listening to God's Word and celebrating the Eucharist.23
Of these parts the entrance song and the opening prayer are primary. All
else is secondary.
If Mass begins with the sprinkling of the people with blessed water,
the penitential rite is omitted; this may be done at all Sunday Masses.24
Similarly, if the psalms of part of the Liturgy of the Hours precede Mass,
the introductory rite is abbreviated in accord with the General Instruction
on the office of prayer.2 5
The Liturgy of the Word
AS. Readings from scripture are the heart of the liturgy of the word. The
homiiy, responsorial psalms, profession of faith, and general intercessions
develop and complete it. In the readings, God speaks to his people and
nourishes their spirit; Christ is present through his word. The homily
explains the readings. The chants and the profession of faith comprise the
people's acceptance of God's Word. It is of primary importance that the
people hear God's message of love, digest it with the aid of psalms, silence,
and the homily, and respond, involving themselves in the great covenant of
love and redemption. All else is secondary.
The Preparation of the Gifts
46. The eucharistic prayer is preceded by the preparation of the gifts.
The purpose of the rite is to prepare bread and wine for the sacrifice. The
secondary character of the rite determines the manner of the celebration.
It consists very simply of bringing the gifts to the altar, possibly
accompanied by song, prayers to be said by the celebrant as he prepares
the gifts, and the prayer over the gifts. Of these elements the bringing of
the gifts, the placing of the gifts on the altar, and the prayer over the gifts
are primary. All else is secondary.
The Eucharistic Prayer
47. The eucharistic prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification, is
the center of the entire celebration. By an introductory dialogue the priest
invites the people to lift their hearts to God in praise and thanks; he unites
them with himself in the prayer he addresses in their name to the Father
through Jesus Christ. The meaning of the prayer is that the whole
congregation joins Christ in acknowledging the works of God and offering
the sacrifice.26 As a statement of the faith of the local assembly it is
affirmed and ratified by all those present through acclamations of faith:
the first acclamation or Sanctus, the memorial acclamation, and the Great
The Communion Rite
48. The eating and drinking of the Body and Blood of the Lord in a
paschal meal is the climax of our eucharistic celebration. It is prepared for
by several rites: the Lord's Prayer with embolism and doxology, the rite of
peace, breaking of bread (and commingling) during the "Lamb of God,"
private preparation of the priest and showing of the eucharistic bread. The
eating and drinking is accompanied by a song expressing the unity of
communicants and is followed by a time of prayer after communion.27
Those elements are primary which show forth signs that the first fruit of
the Eucharist is the unity of the Body of Christ, Christians loving Christ
through loving one another. The principal texts to accompany or express
the sacred action are the Lord's Prayer, the song during the communion
procession, and the prayer after communion.
The Concluding Rite
49. The concluding rite consists of the priest's greeting and blessing,
which is sometimes expanded by the prayer over the people or another
solemn form, and the dismissal which sends each member of the
congregation to do good works, praising and blessing the Lord.28
A recessional song is optional. The greeting, blessing, dismissal, and
recessional song or instrumental music ideally form one continuous action
which may culminate in the priest's personal greetings and conversations at
the church door.
V. APPLICA TION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF CELEBRA TION
TO MUSIC IN EUCHARISTIC WORSHIP
50. Many and varied musical patterns are now possible within the
liturgical structure. Musicians and composers need to respond creatively
and responsibly to the challenge of developing new music for today's
51. While it is possible to make technical distinctions in the forms of
Mass— all the way from the Mass in which nothing is sung to the Mass in
which everything is sung— such distinctions are of little significance in
themselves; almost unlimited combinations of sung and recited parts may
be chosen. The important decision is whether or not this or that part may
or should be sung in this particular celebration and under these specific
circumstances.29 The former distinction between the ordinary and proper
parts of the Mass with regard to musical settings and distribution of roles is
no longer retained. For this reason the musical settings of the past are
usually not helpful models for composing truly liturgical contemporary
52. Two patterns used to serve as foundation for the creating and
planning of liturgy: One was "High Mass" with its five movements, sung
Ordinary and fourfold sung Proper. The other was the four-hymn "Low
Mass" format that grew out of the Instruction on Sacred Music of 1958.
The four-hymn pattern developed in the context of a Latin Mass which
could accommodate song in the vernacular only at certain points. It is now
outdated and the Mass has more than a dozen parts that may be sung as
well as numerous options for the celebrant. Each of these parts must be
understood according to its proper nature and function.
53. The acclamations are shouts of joy which arise from the whole
assembly as forceful and meaningful assents to God's Word and Action.
They are important because they make some of the most significant
moments of the Mass (gospel, eucharistic prayer, Lord's Prayer) stand out.
It is of their nature that they be rhythmically strong, melodically
appealing, and affirmative. The people should know the acclamations by
heart in order to sing them spontaneously. Some variety is recommended
and even imperative. The challenge to the composer and people alike is one
of variety without confusion.
54. In the eucharistic celebration there are five acclamations which ought
to be sung even at Masses in which little else is sung: Alleluia; "Holy, Holy,
Holy Lord;" Memorial Acclamation; Great Amen; Doxology to the Lord's
55. This acclamation of paschal joy is both a reflection upon the Word of
God proclaimed in the Liturgy and a preparation for the gospel. All stand
to sing it. After the cantor or choir sings the alleluia(s), the people
customarily repeat it. Then a single proper verse is sung by the cantor or
choir, and all repeat the alleluia(s). If not sung, the alleluia may be
omitted.30 In its place a moment of silent reflection may be observed.
During Lent a brief verse of acclamatory character replaces the alleluia and
is sung in the same way.
''Holy, Holy, Holy Lord"
56. This is the people's acclamation of praise concluding the preface of
the eucharistic prayer. We join the whole communion of saints in
acclaiming the Lord. Settings which add harmony or descants on solemn
feasts and occasions are appropriate, but since this chant belongs to priest
and people, the choir parts must facilitate and make effective the people's
The Memorial Acclamations
57. We support one another's faith in the paschal mystery, the central
mystery of our belief. This acclamation is properly, a memorial of the
Lord's suffering and glorification with an expression of faith in his coming,
but variety in text and music is desirable.
The Great Amen
58. The worshippers assent to the eucharistic prayer and make it their
own in the Great Amen. To be most effective, the Amen may be repeated
or augmented. Choirs may harmonize and expand upon the people's
Do xo logy to the Lord's Prayer
59. These words of praise, "For the Kingdom, the power and the glory is
yours, now and forever," are fittingly sung by all especially when the
Lord's Prayer is sung. Here too the choir may enhance the acclamation
The Processional Songs
60. The two processional chants— the entrance song and the communion
song— are very important for a sense of awareness of community. Proper
antiphons are given to be used with appropriate psalm verses. These may
be replaced by the chants of the Simple Gradual ', by other psalms and
antiphons, or by other fitting songs.3 1
The entrance song
61. The entrance song should create an atmosphere of celebration. It
serves the function of putting the assembly in the proper frame of mind
for listening to the Word of God. It helps people to become conscious of
themselves as a worshipping community. The choice of texts for the
entrance song should not conflict with these purposes. In general, during
the most important seasons of the Church year, Easter, Lent, Christmas
and Advent, it is preferable that most songs used at the entrance be
seasonal in nature.32
The communion song
62. The communion should foster a sense of unity. It should be simple
and not demand great effort. It gives expression to the joy of unity in the
body of Christ and the fulfillment of the mystery being celebrated. Most
benediction hymns, by reason of their concentration on adoration rather
than on communion, are not acceptable. In general, during the most
important seasons of the Church year, Easter, Lent, Christmas, and
Advent, it is preferable that most songs used at the communion be
seasonal in nature. During the remainder of the Church year, however,
topical songs may be used during the communion procession, provided
these texts do not conflict with the paschal character of every Sunday."33
63. This unique and very important song is the response to the first
lesson. The new lectionary lists 900 refrains in its determination to match
the content of the psalms to the theme of reading. The liturgy of the Word
comes to life if between the first two readings a cantor sings the psalm and
all sing the response. Since most groups cannot learn a new response every
week, seasonal refrains are offered in the lectionary itself and in the
Simple Gradual. Other psalms and refrains may also be used, including
psalms arranged in responsorial form, metrical and similar versions of
psalms, provided they are used in accordance with the principles of the
Simple Gradual and are selected in harmony with the liturgical season,
feast or occasion. The choice of the texts which are not from the psalter is
not extended to the chants between the readings.34 To facilitate
reflection, there may be a brief period of silence between the first reading
and the responsorial psalm.
64. The fourth category is the ordinary chants which now may be treated
as individual choices. One or more may be sung, the others spoken. The
pattern may vary according to the circumstances. These chants are as
Lord have mercy
65. This short litany was traditionally a prayer of praise to the risen
Christ. He has been raised and made "Lord" and we beg him to show his
loving kindness. The sixfold Kyrie of the new Order of Mass may be sung
in other ways, for example, as a ninefold chant.35 It may also be
incorporated in the penitential rite, with invocations addressed to Christ.
When sung, the setting should be brief and simple so as not to give undue
importance to the introductory rites.
"Glory to God"
66. This ancient hymn of praise is now given in a new poetic and singable
translation. It may be introduced by celebrant, cantor or choir. The
restricted use of the Gloria, i.e., only on Sundays outside Advent and Lent
and on solemnities and feasts, 36 emphasizes its special and solemn
character. The new text offers many opportunities for alternation of choir
and people in poetic parallelisms. The "Glory to God" also provides an
opportunity for the choir to sing alone on festive occasions.
67. This prayer begins our immediate preparation for sharing in the
Paschal Banquet. The traditional text is retained and may be set to music
by composers with the same freedom as other parts of the Ordinary. All
settings must provide for the participation of the priest and all present.
"Lamb of God"
68. The Agnus Dei, is a litany-song to accompany the breaking of the
bread, in preparation for communion. The invocation and response may be
repeated as the action demands. The final response is always "grant us
peace." Unlike the "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord," and the Lord's Prayer, the
"Lamb of God" is not necessarily a song of the people. Hence it may be
sung by the choir, though the people should generally make the response.
Profession of Faith
69. This is a communal profession of faith in which ". . . the people who
have heard the Word of God in the lesson and in the homily may assent
and respond to it, and may renew in themselves the rule of faith as they
begin to celebrate the Eucharist."3 7 It is usually preferable that the Creed
be spoken in declamatory fashion rather than sung. If it is sung, it might
more effectively take the form of a simple musical declamation rather than
that of an extensive and involved musical structure.
70. This category includes songs for which there are no specified texts
nor any requirement that there should be a spoken or sung text. Here the
choir may play a fuller role for there is no question of usurping the
people's parts. This category includes the following:
The Offertory Song
71. The offertory song may accompany the procession and preparation
of the gifts. It is not always necessary or desirable. Organ or instrumental
music is also fitting at the time. When song is used it is to be noted that
the song need not speak of bread and wine or of offering. The proper
function of this song is to accompany and celebrate the communal aspects
of the procession. The text, therefore, can be any appropriate song of
praise or of rejoicing in keeping with the season. The antiphons of the
Roman Gradual, not included in the new Roman Missal, may be used with
psalm vocals. Instrumental interludes can effectively accompany the
procession of preparation of the gifts and thus keep this part of the Mass
in proper perspective relative to the eucharistic prayer which follows.
The Psalm or Song after Communion
72. The singing of a psalm or hymn of praise after the distribution of
communion is optional. If the organ is played or the choir sings during the
distribution of communion, a congregational song may well provide a
fitting expression of oneness in the Eucharistic Lord. Since no particular
text is specified, there is ample room for creativity.
The Recessional Song
73. The recessional song has never been an official part of the rite;
hence musicians are free to plan music which provides an appropriate
closing to the liturgy. A song is one possible choice. However, if the
people have sung a song after communion, it may be advisable to use only
an instrumental or choir recessional.
74. Litanies are often more effective when sung. The repetition of
melody and rhythm draws the people together in a strong and unified
response. In addition to the "Lamb of God," already mentioned, the
general intercessions (prayer of the faithful) offer an opportunity for
litanical singing, as do the invocations of Christ in the penitential rite.
Progress and New Directions
75. Many new patterns and combinations of song are emerging in
eucharistic celebrations. Congregations most frequently sing an entrance
song, alleluia, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord," memorial acclamation, Great
Amen, and a song at communion (or a song after communion). Other parts
are added in varying quantities, depending on season, degree of solemnity
and musical resources. Choirs often add one or more of the following: a
song before Mass, an Offertory song, the "Glory to God" on special
occasions, additional communion songs or a song after communion or a
recessional. They may also enhance the congregationally sung entrance
song and acclamations with descants, harmony, and antiphonal arrange-
ments. Harmony is desirable when it gives breadth and power to the unison
voice of people without confusing them.
76. Flexibility reigns supreme. The musician with a sense of artistry and a
deep knowledge of the rhythm of the liturgical action will be able to
combine the many options into an effective whole. For the composer and
performer alike there is an unprecedented challenge. He must enhance the
liturgy with new creations of variety and richness and with those
compositions from the time-honored treasury of liturgical music which can
still serve today's celebrations. Like the wise householder in Matthew's
Gospel, the church musician must be one "who can produce from his store
both the new and the old."
77. The Church in the United States today needs the services of many
qualified musicians as song leaders, organists, instrumentalists, cantors,
choir directors, and composers. We have been blessed with many generous
musicians who have given years of service even with meager financial
compensation. In order that the art may grow and face the challenges of
today and tomorrow every diocese and parish should establish policies for
hiring and paying living wages to competent musicians. Full-time musicians
employed by the Church ought to be on the same salary scale as teachers
with similar qualifications and workloads.39
78. Likewise, in order that composers and publishers receive just
compensation for their work, those engaged in parish music programs and
those responsible for budgets must often be reminded that it is illegal and
immoral to reproduce by any means either text or music both of
copyrighted materials without written permission of the copyright owner.
The fact that these duplicated materials are not for sale but for private use
does not alter the legal or moral situation of the practice.40
VI. MUSIC IN SA CRAMENTA L CELEB RA TIONS
79. While music has traditionally been part of the celebration of
weddings, funerals and confirmation, the communal celebration of
baptism, anointing and penance is only recently restored. The renewed
rituals, following the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, provide for and
encourage communal celebrations, which according to the capabilities of
the congregation, should involve song.41
80. The rite of baptism is best begun by an entrance song;42 the liturgy
of the word is enhanced by a sung psalm and/or alleluia. Where the
processions to and from the place of the liturgy of the word and the
baptistry take some time, they should be accompanied by music. Above
all, the acclamations— the affirmation of faith by the people, the
acclamation immediately after the baptism, the acclamation upon
completion of the rite— should be sung by the whole congregation.
81. Whenever rites like the anointing of the sick or the sacrament of
penance are celebrated communally, music is important. The general
structure is introductory rite, liturgy of the word, sacrament and dismissal.
The introductory rite and liturgy of the word follow the pattern of the
Mass. At the time of the sacrament an acclamation or song by all the
people is desirable.
82. Confirmation and marriage are most often celebrated within a Mass.
The norms given above pertain. Great care should be taken, especially at
marriages, that all the people are involved at the important moments of
the celebration, that the same general principles of planning worship and
judging music are employed as at other liturgies, and above all, that the
liturgy is a prayer for all present, not a theatrical production.
83. Music becomes particularly important in the new burial rites. Without
it the themes of hope and resurrection are very difficult to express. The
entrance song, the acclamations, and the song of farewell or
commendation are of primary importance for the whole congregation. The
choral and instrumental music should fit the paschal mystery theme.
84. We find today a vital interest in the Mass as prayer and here lies the
principle of synthesis. When everyone with one accord strives to make the
Mass a prayer, a sharing and celebration of Faith, then there will be
unity— many styles of music, a broad choice of instruments, a wide variety
of forms of celebration, but a single purpose: that men of faith may
proclaim and share that faith in prayer and that Christ may grow among
1 Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Liturgy (=CSL), No. 34.
2Congregation of Rites, Instruction on Music in the Liturgy, March 5, 1967, no. 5e; Roman
Missal , Genera! Instruction (=GI), No. 73.
3GI No. 313.
4 Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy (=BCL), April 18, 1966.
5 Congregation for Divine Worship (=CDW), Instruction on Mass for Special Gatherings,
May 15, 1969.
6BCL, February 17, 1967.
7GI No. 1;cf. CSL No. 102.
8 Instruction on Music in the Liturgy, No. 1 1 .
9 Ibid., No. 8.
10Cf. CSL, No. 112.
MCf. CSL, No. 114.
12BCL, April 18, 1966.
13 National Conference of Catholic Bishops (=NCCB), November, 1967.
15CSL, No. 28.
16 Instruction on Music in the Liturgy, No. 21 .
17BCL, April 18, 1966.
18CSL, No. 114.
19BCL, Aprii 18, 1966.
20Cf. CSL, No. 120; Instruction on Music in the Liturgy, Nos. 63-65; CDW Third
Instruction, September 5, 1970, No. 3c.
2 ^CCB, November 1967; cf. CSL No. 120.
22GI, No. 8.
24Cf. Roman Missal, Blessing and Sprinkling of Holy Water, No. 1 .
25 Liturgy of the Hours, General Instruction, Nos. 93-98.
27Gi, No. 56.
29Gi, No. 19, cf. Instruction on Music in the Liturgy, Nos. 28 and 36.
32 NCCB, November 1969.
34NCCB, November 1968; cf. Gi, No. 6.
36GI, No. 31.
38NCCB, November 1967.
39BCL, April 18, 1966.
40BCL, April 1969.
41Cf. CSL, No. 27.
42 Rite of Baptism for Children, No. 5: 32 and 35.
43 Rite of Funerals, Introduction, No. 4.
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